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Income tax season is in full swing, which means that you’re likely shopping around for a good tax preparation service. Most towns and cities boast dozens of tax services, so choosing the best one for you can take a little research. Unless you have a regular bookkeeper, you may only know the big names on the block. These tips can help you choose the right tax preparation service for your personal or business income taxes.


Many smaller tax services are only open from January through April. If you only need assistance with your personal income taxes, those may be just fine for you. Keep in mind, though, that if you’re contacted later about your returns or if you need their assistance during an audit, you may be out of luck if you choose a tax service that pulls in its shingle after April 15.


You need an experienced, qualified tax preparer to do your taxes. While you don’t have to be a CPA to do personal income taxes, a certified public accountant has the education and experience to make sure that you take advantage of all the deductions and exemptions to which you are entitled. In addition, a CPA in a year-round accounting firm will keep up on the latest tax laws and changes to the tax code to ensure that your returns are completed accurately and to your benefit.


A conveniently located office can be a boon if you intend to meet face to face in the accountant’s office. Consider where the office is located and how hard or easy it is to get there if you need to drop off and pick up records and returns.


Ask around to learn the reputation of the tax services you’re considering and take the time to check out their credentials. Do the employees have CPA training and certification? Do they offer tax services for income tax season, or do they also provide other accounting and bookkeeping services? Are they listed with the local Better Business Bureau, and if so, what is their reputation and rating?


Some tax preparation services offer guarantees of accuracy. When you’re deciding among tax services, make sure you know what they will do if their error results in fines or penalties, or if you are audited by the IRS. Those factors can help you decide between two or more tax preparation services with similar reputations, availability and pricing.


The cost of preparing tax returns varies widely from one tax service to the next. It’s illegal for a tax preparation service to base its fees on the amount of refund they obtain for you. Some accountant offices charge by the hour. Others have a standard schedule of fees based on the complexity of the tax returns and forms that must be filled out. Still others provide a custom estimate and quote for each individual. If your tax situation is very complex, some tax services may have difficulty giving you an exact price before they do a more thorough interview with you, but they should be able to give you a rough estimate of what it will cost to have your taxes prepared.

While it’s tempting to jump at the first tax service advertisement you see, avoid that temptation. Unless your situation is very straightforward, take the time to check out several tax services and choose the one that it the best fit for your situation.

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